Someone Else's Happiness
By living his own truth, a gay man finds the serenity he always wanted
With the exception of becoming a musician, throughout the 1940s and 50s my childhood dreams were always discouraged.
Me: "I want to design cars when I grow up."
Pop: "Colored people don't get those kinds of jobs."
Me: "I want to be a fashion designer."
Mom: "You'll have to work ten times harder cause you're colored."
At age seven, Gramma and I came across a photo of a "colored man" relaxing in a purple chair. With his legs propped upon a matching ottoman, he read a newspaper in the shade of a vibrant, green floor plant. A variety of brightly colored paintings covered the walls.
The article referred to him as a bachelor, and it was the first time something spoke to me that didn't have a voice.
Me: "That's what I want to be when I grow up, a bachelor."
Gramma: "Oh no, Baby. Don't you want to work in the insurance company and have a family like your daddy?"
Evidently, I thought, there was something wrong with being a bachelor, and the last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt Gramma's feelings.
My heart sang its first sad song as I sighed "I guess so." At age eight, I began looking for a potential wife.
I cannot base my happiness upon the wishes of well-meaning loved ones.
Throughout high school, I performed in a band. Surrounded by dishonesty, inflated egos and stifling creativity, I wanted to quit. But, regardless of my unhappiness, I always allowed my parents to talk me into staying.
Mom and Pop: "You're making good money."
Me: "It's not about the money. It's about the fun of entertaining."
By age 22, I was working at the same insurance company as Pop, gotten married, became a "daddy" and living someone else's happiness.
Twenty years later, I'd had two failed marriages, came out as a gay man, drank lots of booze, then got sober.
Seventy-two years after that conversation with Gramma, I'm now living on one of the top floors in a high-rise apartment. The walls are covered with various African masks and paintings; vibrant, green plants dot the floors of my living room and bedroom. There's no purple chair, but there is a baby grand piano and loads of serenity.
I have no regrets and countless blessings: two sons, four grandchildren and seven great grandchildren – so far.
Today I'm a retired musician, interior designer and health educator. Though not famous, I've written a play and seen it performed by a local theater group.
I've come to realize:
1). I cannot base my happiness upon the wishes of well-meaning loved ones.
2). Gut-wrenching honesty and acceptance may hurt in the beginning, but it also sets me free.